Water levels and temperatures continue to yo-yo, but does the fishing ever get totally desperate? There's usually something to try for, even if it's just to kill an afternoon. I was glad that Norbert Darby dragged me out for a Sunday trip. Signs were mixed. Warming temperatures, but also loads of pike anglers out on the canal, none reporting anything very dramatic.
The water had cleared slightly, but still didn't look that inviting, so I opted for a big perch coloured fly (above), with plenty of presence. To be quite honest, it was nice just to stretch the legs and make a few casts. About half an hour later, as I was sneaking the thing in slow and deep, there was a lovely tap-tap-THUMP! on the end of the line. If there's one thing I love about fly fishing, it's that moment of connection transmitted right through the fingers.
After a minute or so playing tug of war on my eight weight, this was either a very spirited jack, or something hefty. The fish that rolled was thick round the middle, and suddenly things felt more urgent. Norbert took some snaps while every dog walker and their beast in the vicinity decided to come an have an ogle- an added presence I rarely enjoy with a lively fish on the unhooking mat! This one went 15lb 4oz, really chunky and beautifully marked too.
Having being trounced by Norbert on our two previous trips, this was also a welcome comeback. "You won't catch anything on the fly" was his earlier piece of gamesmanship. Not that either of us gets pointlessly competitive or anything. It was also reward for recent homework at the vise. Having never know a season quite like it for floods and crappy conditions, my recent flies have been much bigger and bolder than the usual fare. Thank goodness for pike though. Without them, there would be quite a big gap in the fly fishing year.
It won't be too long, of course, before other species start to feature with the fly tackle. Clearer rivers would be a start- but judging by the massive growing interest in flyfishing for coarse fish, it could be quite a year. Along with new partner in crime Charlie Hancock, we've launched both a Facebook Group ("Flyfishing for Coarse Fish") and also a Twitter account (@FlyForCoarse). So far the interest has been amazing, with well over 200 followers and members onboard in just one week! There'll be a big competition on the way, and lots of fun stuff to get involved with- watch this space. Better start tying for the spring now! (These are some roach and rudd flies I'm just finishing for a group member):
Otherwise, I've also enjoyed some more pole fishing. I hadn't been to Shillingford for ages, but this can be a banker water for cold weather. Provided, that is, you bin the text book swims. All those tempting looking features look great for perch- but when they have two feet of icy water around them, these bits can be pretty dead. The pole lets you test the depth with total accuracy however. Find an area a little further out just a little deeper (sometimes only 2-3 inches more than the surrounding depths) and you're often in business.
Despite the remnants of recent snow, a patient approach with regular helpings of caster and chopped worm did the business for a tidy net, with quality roach and several perch to just under two pounds.